Paul Krugman has a nice blog post this morning asking a great question: "why does anyone believe that success in business qualified someone to make economic policy?"
The best purchase on this question is to go back to something that Bill James wrote a long time ago, which unfortunately I can't locate (the Abstracts were awesome, but not indexed, and I can never find my favorite bits when I want to cite them)...if I remember correctly, and it's been some time, I wound up doing an extended riff on this once back on r.s.bb, and to tell the truth I can't remember what was his original point and what I'm remembering from what I wrote, so my apologies overall. It's about what it means to "know baseball." The idea is that there are lots and lots and lots of ways to know baseball. There's technique, such as how to throw a cut fastball or the footwork for how to take a throw at third base from right field with a runner sliding in. There's also knowing what it's like in a major league locker room. Both of those count as "knowing baseball." But so does knowing what it's like to sit in the bleachers, or knowing about what the game was like in the 19th century or the 1950. It's also "knowing baseball" to be able to watch an 18 year old kid and project how he'll be a as major leaguer in five years -- and it's "knowing baseball" to sit at your computer and figure out how much a single is worth compared to reaching on a base on balls, or how much striking out hurts the team objectively compared to other types of outs. It's knowing baseball to know the business of a baseball franchise or of the industry as a whole. And it's even knowing baseball to get involved in your roto team, or even more fictionally to read baseball fiction, whether of the DeLillo and Malamud variety or, you know, what I like.
The point of all this is that there are all sort of different kinds of knowledge that go into "knowing" baseball, and no one is a real expert at all of them -- and that different kinds of knowledge are needed to answer different types of questions.
Which, among other things, is something that Mitt Romney certainly knows, since one of the main things that Bain and other similar consultants surely face is people telling them that they don't really know whatever business it is that they're swooping in to fix up. But of course the workers in those companies probably believe that the managers don't really "know" what's going on in the business (and you can spin this out over the different types of workers, depending on the company).
And to get back to Krugman's point, there's no particular reason to believe that knowing what Romney knows about how to turn around a poorly performing business has anything at all to do with knowing how to make an overall economy perform well. Just as it's really not important to know the footwork of how to turn a double play if you want to know whether Joe Morgan was better than Ryne Sandberg, or how it feels to be in the clubhouse isn't important (or at best is only one very small piece of the puzzle) if you want to know how signing Prince Fielder will affect franchise revenue over the life of the contract. I could see an argument that Romney's skills might be particularly important for managing the executive branch well, but for getting unemployment down and income up? What Romney claims to know just doesn't seem very relevant to that part of the job.
On the other hand, while a good grasp of economics might be pretty useful for a president, I suspect that it's not nearly as important as Krugman might argue.
What are important are political skills, especially the ones relevant to governing. Good politicians tend to make good policy -- in part because in a system of separated institutions sharing powers, a president has to fight hard to get anything done, and in part because it takes good political skills to build an economic team and get them to function well.